Reform of the Mining Code

Last updated: 11 December 2023

The Mining Code was first established in 1956 and last reformed in April 2022, in line with the Loi Climat et Résilience of 22 August 2021. Four ordinances are being implemented: 

  1. Integration of mining works into the environmental permit system from 1st January 2023;  
  2. Compensation and reparation for mining damage, which is extended to environmental and health damage. The liability rests with the explorer or operator in case of mining damage; 
  3. Modification of the mining model and the legal regimes under the mining code; 
  4. Adaptation of the mining code in overseas France (ensuring that mining projects are compatible with the environment, particularly concerning the protection of biodiversity and primary forests). This ordinance affects the Overseas Departments and French Guyana but not the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Overseas Territories, and New Caledonia.  

The Mining Code contains laws and regulations applicable to exclusive exploration permits or mining rights, and as such determines that:

  • An environmental permit is required from holders of exclusive exploitation (concession) and exploration (exclusive research permit) rights for projects that present serious hazards and inconveniences. Such environmental permits can be obtained as described in the Environment Code. 
  • The exclusive exploration permit provides exclusive rights for the exploration of a commodity in a certain area. This legal regime is defined by the Mining Code (articles L. 132-1 to L. 122-3), which underwent a reform in 2022. The Mining Code determines that no one may obtain an exclusive research permit unless they have the technical and financial capacity to carry out the research work and to assume the obligations mentioned in the decrees issued to protect the interests mentioned in article L. 161-1 and articles L. 161-1 and L. 163-1 to L. 163-9 of the Mining Code. A decree issued by the Conseil d'Etat defines the criteria for assessing these capacities, the conditions for awarding these titles and the procedure for examining applications. Exclusive exploration permits can initially be delivered for a maximum duration of five years. 
  • Mining concessions provide exclusive rights for the extraction of a commodity in a certain area. This legal regime is defined by the Mining Code (articles L. 132-1 to L. 132-18), which underwent reform in 2022. Before exclusive mining rights can be attributed, public participation must be strengthened and environmental considerations must be taken into account. Concession holders must also secure an environmental permit ("Autorisation overture des travaux miniers") before beginning operations. 
  • A national strategic policy for the sustainable management of underground resources and activities has to be updated at least every five years and formally translated into a report, which must include a survey of existing deposits, a strategy for the management of these resources, a description of possible techniques to explore and exploit these resources, as well as an evaluation of possible environmental and sanitary impacts and measures to reduce these impacts. Information on the main characteristics of applications for mining permits currently under examination, valid mining permits and other mining authorisations, as well as a map showing their perimeter on national territory, should be made available to the public in electronic form, in an open standard that can be freely reused and exploited.

The Mining Code is applicable to a limited number of commodities, including: Hydrocarbons and fossil fuels, excluding peat, whether in solid, liquid or gaseous form; graphite; diamond; Sodium and potassium salts in solid or dissolved form, with the exception of those contained in salt water used for therapeutic or recreational purposes; Alum, sulphates other than alkaline-earth sulphates; Bauxite, fluorite; Iron, cobalt, nickel, chromium, manganese, vanadium, titanium, zirconium, molybdenum, tungsten, hafnium, rhenium; Copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, germanium, tin, indium; Cerium, scandium and other rare-earth elements; Niobium, tantalum; Mercury, silver, gold, platinum and platinum mine metals; Helium, lithium, rubidium, caesium, radium, thorium, uranium and other radioactive elements; Sulphur, selenium, tellurium; Arsenic, antimony, bismuth; Carbon dioxide, with the exception of gas naturally contained in waters that are or may come to be used for human consumption or therapeutic purposes; Phosphates; beryllium, gallium, thallium; Native hydrogen.

The Mining Code considers that these commodities are a public good and therefore do not belong to the landowner. The Code also regulates geothermal energy and mineral extraction in the domestic seabed.

Want to know more about this policy ? Learn more (French)